Last week, for the first time I can remember, I hit the trifecta…

That’s right. In one day, interviews with college ministers from what I consider the 3 “branches” of collegiate ministry. As you can see on the West Coast Itinerary, I met with Drew Aufhammer, staff member of UCLA Campus Crusade (the first Crusade chapter, by the way); Joe Keller, Dean of Students at The Master’s College (who oversees much of the spiritual life side of that Christian campus); and Ross McMeekin, Director of University Ministries at Malibu Presbyterian Church.

In other words, I got to explore campus-based ministry, the ministry of Christian colleges, and church-based ministry. All on the same day.

(In fact, I almost hit the double-trifecta, because that night I attended the UCLA Cru meeting and the college study over at Bel Air Pres. If I had attended a Christian college’s chapel or other ministry activity… DOUBLE TRIFECTA. So close!)

Anyway, that very full day and some other recent explorations have gotten me thinking about those 3 branches. So you’ll probably see some thoughts over the next week along those lines. [Here’s the first of those posts.]

Since that’s the case, I figured I would first give a little primer on the 3 “branches” I see in the field of Collegiate Ministry. These are definitely working categories, and I may eventually categorize things differently. But hopefully they’ll work for now – and if you’ve got notes or thoughts, feel free to comment!

Branch #1: Campus-Based Ministry

This is probably the branch of college ministry most people outside our field think of when they hear “college ministry.” And certainly, some major campus-based ministries have been going strong for many decades – even over a century in the case of InterVarsity – with some impacting outside the U.S., as well. This branch includes truly “parachurch” ministries – like the very new Young Life College. But the campus-based branch also includes denominational campus-based ministries that aren’t considered “parachurch” but are still campus-based – like RUF (Presbyterian Church of America) or BCM (with Southern Baptists).

Of course, campus-based ministry also includes all kinds of ministries on individual campuses, from humongous Bible studies like Breakaway at Texas A&M to little dorm Bible studies started by Jesus-loving students.

Branch #2: Church-Based Ministry

More and more, churches do seem to be taking on college ministry “in house,” adding some sort of “College Minister” as a volunteer, part-time, or full-time position. Or, for some churches, there’s no position at all; college ministry for them is as simple as a Sunday school class or mid-week Bible study at the pastor’s house.

Obviously, the spectrum here is quite wide, from churches with longstanding, large, influential ministries like University Presbyterian in Seattle (with The Inn college ministry) or Central Baptist (with Freedom) in College Station, Texas, to smaller churches thinking right now about how they can best impact local collegians, like Calvary Church of the Pacific Palisades near Los Angeles.

Of course, “church-based” ministries may still have on-campus activities. The key component here is that the ministry is tied to, overseen by, and resourced by one particular local church.

Branch #3: Christian Colleges

Ah, this is the branch we don’t usually think of as “college ministry.” But all year, I’ve had the chance to chat with staff in the offices of Chaplains, Campus Pastors, Spiritual Life, or whatever a particular institution happens to name this department.

And this is certainly a branch of Collegiate Ministry. They’re working to impact undergrad students, just like the rest of us.

Sure, not all Christian colleges make actual discipleship of students a priority (just like some churches). But on the other hand, many Christian schools are doing an amazing job of recognizing their role in not only educating “from a Christian perspective” but also impacting the students’ present relationship with Jesus. (And, of course, there can be major overlap in those two purposes.)

That makes this a branch of college ministry, too, and there is a whole lot we more traditional “college ministers” can learn from these guys and gals ministering at Christian colleges.

That’s it for now. More to come. I’m on my way to San Luis Obispo.

Written at Westmont College, Santa Barbara, and finished at Rest Stop, on the way to San Luis Obispo


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